Should trans/non-binary characters be questioned about their gender?

I’m in the process of writing a game where the player has the option to play as a trans or non-binary character. Up till now, I’ve not really had the character’s gender affect the game much. (If the character’s trans-male, they’ll be referred to as “he”, transgender-female as “she” and non-binary as “they”, ect.) Not really sure why it took this long to occour to me but… This isn’t exactly realistic.

Obviously, in real life, when an non-binary person meets a group of people for the first time, they’re not just going to automatically know that the person is non-binary. They’re either going to assume the person’s gender, or ask them about it, and the non-binary person would have to explain their gender to them.

Also, trans and non-binary people are pretty much guaranteed to come across certain people in their lives who refuse to accept them as the gender that they identify with. So, if there was a character in the game who was a cruel, bigoted bully, it wouldn’t really make sense for that character to be respectful and accepting of a trans/non-binary character, and refer to them with their preferred pronouns without question.

So, personally I would like to edit the game to make it more realistic, and include some of the scenarios and struggles that a trans/non-binary person would experience in real life. I’m also aware though, that some people might prefer it if topics like this weren’t addressed, and all of the characters in the game would know and accept the MC’s gender automatically. I figured it’d be best to ask first, because, obviously, I don’t want to spend a lot of time re-writing the game, only to be told that it was better the way it was before.

So, what does everybody think?

  • I would prefer it if the game included some of the struggles and issues that trans and non-binary people have to deal with in every day life.
  • I’d prefer if the game was realistic, and had people ask about the character’s gender instead of automatically knowing, but I don’t want to see any discrimination, not even from villains.
  • I’d prefer it if all characters in the game automatically know and accept the character’s gender without having to be told.

0 voters

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I find the larger percentage of people just assume. I do and I’m genderqueer. It’s kind of your responsibility to tell me I’m wrong because people don’t innately know. Like you could be trans, a drag queen/king, a transvestite, gender non-binary, intersex, forgot to do laundry, or a bunch of other things but at the end of the day all I see is a boy in a dress or a girl in a suit and will proceed to address you as such and I’m sorry, but I also expect you to do the same to me. Lol.

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…I think you should be very careful about how you do it. This can be very triggering and it can have a huge impact on your readers, which you cannot predict. If gender is not a huge theme in your story at all, then don’t include it.

Also don’t do this to be ‘realistic’. You are not going to be realistic, because stories are not realistic. So that should never be your reason to do something. If you include this you better mean something with it, go somewhere with it or have some kind of point. It’s not something you can just one short scene with and then be done, because it says something about your setting if your bully/villain goes for gender. It’s not something where you can have one scene discrimination for realism and then have it done and over with.

That one little line in Heart of House completely changed how I viewed the setting and changed the ending to a WTF no I don’t want to go back to society ever. Please let me stay in this little LGBT-haven.

If people start questioning my NPC’s gender it means that my MC views every NPC with distrust (unless they are another enby) because my real life experiences bleed over.

All that doesn’t mean you can’t include it. Just that you have to make a conscious decision about it. And if your reason is ‘because realism’ then I will say no you shouldn’t include it.

What’s the story you want to tell? And why is this important to it?

Also include a trigger warning, thank you.

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I agree very heavily with this. I would really examine why it is you want to add transphobia into your story–especially for the MC. Is it just to make the game harder for trans people? Is it to make the world feel more like the real one? Is there a reason you feel dissatisfied with not including it beyond that you feel like it’s unrealistic?

And I think setting matters a lot. If you’re writing a fantasy or a sci-fi work where you’re controlling the worldbuilding, I think making transphobia a part of it is going to come off a lot worse than if you’re writing a modern or historical story. If you include a character who refuses to believe my MC is their gender in a historical story … okay. If you do it in a fantasy story set in a fake world, I’m gonna side-eye why you felt that transphobia was a necessary part of the setting.

And I think if you want to include acknowledgement that sometimes you can’t eyeball someone’s gender, quietly asking pronouns is the best way to do it without being alienating. I mean, I’m sure some trans folks would still rather not deal with that–there’s a reason most games just let it slide–but I think nb players would view that as more of a welcoming realistic touch than having to actually explain their gender identity. A pause before pronouns that the MC fills in is much, much different than a character making a guess and then forcing the MC to explain what nonbinary means.

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Wouldn’t the easiest solution be to ask trans players at the start of the game whether they want the added realism or would prefer to keep their gender choice purely aesthetic?

You’re already adding conditions so that anything trans specific would only be shown to trans characters, right? Adding one more flag to differentiate between trans characters who do want to see that content versus those who don’t hopefully means everyone gets what they want.

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‘Hey, do you want to risk getting genuinely triggered or would you prefer we pretend everything is sunshine and unicorns?’

This is what this suggestions sounds like to me, due to how the term ‘realism’ is used here.

We had this discussion before, and IIRC th general advice was:
don’t have bigotry in there for the ‘sake’ of 'realism’

As people pointed out:
Ask yourself why your story ‘needs’ it. Why the world in your story ‘needs’ it. Acknowledge things, without going full-fledged bigot.

@HomingPidgeon said it best.

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I’m not sure if you misunderstood, but when I said “questioned about their gender” I just meant other characters asking them what their gender is, which seems reasonable to me. Like @Monk65 said, you can’t always tell. Even a male (as in sex) wearing a dress isn’t necessarily a transgender woman. There are plenty of drag queens who identify as male.

Well I guess ‘because realism’ is the main reason, but not just for the sake of realism. I was curious whether trans/non-binary people would prefer for the game to be written realistically. Not everybody thinks alike on these subjects, and while some people might find scenes like this unwelcome and triggering, other people might appreciate that the game acknowledges some of the struggles that non-cis people have to go through.

I’ve kind of wondered if any trans/non-binary players have ever played a game where all NPCs automatically knew the MC’s gender without having to be told and thought to themselves, “This… Really doesn’t feel like the author understands what it’s like to be trans/non-binary,” or “What’s the point of choosing your gender, if the game is going to be exactly the same, no matter what your gender is?”

I realize that it’s hardly the same, but there’s a short scene in Dragon Age Origins where (if the MC is a female) one of the NPCs has a conversation with the MC, where they basically tell her that she can’t be a warrior because she’s a woman. The female MC then has to explain to him how things are different in her culture, and women can indeed be warriors. I actually really liked this scene, because it acknowledges that sometimes it’s difficult to be a woman. Some men will assume there’s certain things you can’t do, or that you won’t be very good at, and you have to prove them wrong.

I understand that a lot of people like that the CoG games treat the player equally, regardless of character’s gender, and they enjoy the fact that they can spend a few hours playing games where they don’t have to put up with any discrimination, and everyone accepts them for who they are. But I also wonder if some people would rather play a game that acknowledges that it isn’t easy being a trans/non-binary person, and there are certain struggles that they have to go through that cis people don’t have to deal with.

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And… I know that this is completely irrelevant to the topic but… Why the hell is there a piece of cake next to my name? :yum:

Then you’re misunderstanding my meaning.

Fact is, some people do want to keep their choice down to aesthetics, in that nothing about their gender ever comes into play regardless of whether it’s good or bad. And that’s fine, I certainly don’t see that as a “Pretend everything’s sunshine and unicorns.” option. It’s fine if you do.

And with regards to the realism… isn’t one of the options on the poll to add some realism in that people ask about gender but to not have anything negative or harmful? Some people do like it when their choice of gender plays a part in the game.

If you just go for one or the other, one of those groups is going to come out not getting what they’d prefer. Adding a choice saying “Hey how much do you want your gender to impact the game?” seems like a good way for both to get what they want. For those who do get upset if they’re asked questions about their gender can leave any specifics out while people who’d prefer there to be some acknowledgment of their gender can have them.

That’s what I was suggesting. Hope this post clears things up.

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The piece of cake next to your name means it’s your anniversary of joining the forum. :slight_smile: Happy anniversary!

I voted for the “automatically make characters know and accept non-binary gender” because it’s the simplest way to be inclusive and I haven’t had anyone be offended by it. It’s what I’ve done in The Magician’s Burden and several of my WIPs.

However, you make some good arguments for the other options, as well. I’m sure, if done well, either of the other two options could add a lot to the story.

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Hmm… I suppose that’s possible and I’ll definitely consider how I could go about it. I guess the biggest problem with this option is breaking immersion. The choice of gender occurs during the game, and it’s pretty tricky to phrase “Do you want your gender to affect the game and are you open to scenes of bigotry and discrimination?” without breaking immersion. :yum:

Addendum: I have not yet voted for any option as none of them, though closest would be the option @Samuel_H_Young voted for.

I know I’ve gotten a good chunk of positive feedback for how I handles it in my game, where while you have bigoted twats, the general consensus is that trans, non-binary, genderfluid etc peeps are nothing out of the ordinary.
Including most introductions including one’s address and a note on one being genderfluid.

But I know it’s still far from optimal.

So, to repeat what has been said before:
Ask yourself if and why the story needs outright bigotry, and if the acknowledgments can’t be done differently.

Fallen Hero did it interesting with Anathema, Redshift and Sentinel, who we only learn are trans (respectively genderfluid) if the MC is (I thiiiink anathema will always have the same gender as the MC?)

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My answer is no. I view games as a form of escapism and I don’t necessarily want to view them as realistic unless it serves the plot. I think it can be confrontational for trans people to have to face that unique treatment when their cisgender counterparts are not going through that. I keep the differences purely to the used pronouns. If your story is about, say, trans people that fight against discrimination against trans people, then yes, we’d expect to experience something like that. But in a game about, say, space vampires taking over Mars from hybrid squid zombies, I don’t necessarily believe we should be including discrimination against a trans MC.

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:thinking::grimacing:

Huh? I… don’t know what to make of that reaction

First one on the poll sounds more interesting in terms of choices and storyline. I prefer seeing stuff that doesn’t play it safe and rolls the dice.

In any case, I know you’re a good writer so which ever you do I’m sure it’ll be well written, good luck Briar!

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Yey! Happy CoG birthday to me! :grin:

That’s fair, but I do still want to get a feel for people’s preferences. It’s like DA scenario I said about. If there was a poll where the writer asked, “Would you rather male and female MCs were treated exactly the same in a game, or would you rather the female MC were given a hard time and had to struggle to gain the respect they deserved?” The first option would be safer and simpler, but I’d personally prefer option 2, because I like stories in which female characters have to overcome discrimination. Maybe there are some trans/non-binary people who feel the same.

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I’m with MadMinnie, it’s not possible to make everyone happy with either option…you’re either trivializing the experience or making them feel uncomfortable, depending on who’s reading. So why not just ask outright within the game itself if they want their gender choice to effect any of the dialogue? It would make more work for you but more customization is always a good thing.

Most (all?) of the games I’ve encountered do seem the go the ‘don’t acknowledge anything’ route so it’s interesting the poll at this point at least seems to be leaning in the opposite direction. If it keeps trending that way maybe that really does point to a lot of people feeling like their experiences are being glossed over or outright ignored to a degree that it’s hard to suspend disbelief over?

“Would you rather male and female MCs were treated exactly the same in a game, or would you rather the female MC were given a hard time and had to struggle to gain the respect they deserved?” The first option would be safer and simpler, but I’d personally prefer option 2, because I like stories in which female characters have to overcome discrimination.

Same here, although I wouldn’t necessarily want the fact that my character is female to become the focus of the story, it would be nice to have it acknowledged occasionally. It’s like that scene in so many movies (that I’m sure is some kind of trope) where someone is doubted or looked down on for being a giiiiirl and then makes it dramatically clear they’re not anyone to mess with. Always a little bit of a fun escapist moment I enjoy in fiction, because in reality there is sadly not too many excuses to do martial arts on random jerks even if I knew how, lol.

Oh yes, and happy COG birthday!

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I think generally the response is “not really”? Most of these games aren’t about transphobia, as @trevers17 says. If it doesn’t matter to the story, then giving trans folks a hurdle that cis players don’t have to deal with isn’t … well, not going to add anything. You cite DAO as having a scene where the main character has to defend their gender, but that game has a lot of content revolving around the struggles of the individual based on their background and inequality is a consistent theme between games. So we come back to–what game are you writing where you want to include this type of content?

And if you want to make trans and non-binary players feel understood and heard, there are options for that other than including bigotry targeted towards the player. I’ve stopped playing games that gave me the impression I’m going to have to deal with transphobia–pretty much every time I’ve pointed it out to the author and it got changed, because this community is amazing, but my point is that no matter how thoughtful your writing might be, there are members of the audience you’re trying to service who don’t want to be acknowledged in the way that you’re talking about. I’ve played games where the only thing that happened when I played a nonbinary character, is that my character got to be nonbinary, and that was fine for me. It was fun, it was nice, there aren’t very many other game companies that offer that experience, and you are vastly under representing how much it means.

Or, like has already been mentioned, I’ve played games where I talked to other nonbinary characters and got extra content because of shared experiences, referencing (through their higher willingness to open up) that perhaps the world isn’t 110% accepting and tolerant without forcing me and my character to suffer through it on-screen. The Aegis Project has a nonbinary character who will mention their full name to another nonbinary character, when to everyone else they exclusively go by a more androgynous, shortened version. @MeltingPenguins cites Fallen Hero (a game I haven’t personally played) as also having trans characters that open up to another trans MC more than a cis one. And I already said I’ve played games that had a slight pause, a little bit of unsurity, or even had characters directly ask for pronouns, without having it put the MC in a position of needing to defend themselves or answer for their gender, without it seeming accusatory. There are ways to make it feel like it “matters” that the MC is non-binary or trans without misgendering, violence, or bigotry.

If you want to write a story with discrimination in it because you think there are trans and non-binary people who would appreciate playing a game with that in it, that’s your prerogative and you can write what you want. There probably are some trans people who would enjoy that, people come in all stripes. But you will almost definitely also lose some trans readers who aren’t comfortable with that and don’t want to read about

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I will say that making choices for all three of these methods would take tons of work. Btw, you should be prepared for a slew of bigoted reviews if you address sexuality or gender in any sort of in-depth way.

The Magician’s Burden has strong female characters, a non-binary option for the MC, and 3/4 ROs who are black, but it doesn’t really harp on social justice issues directly. And yet I recieved about a dozen blatantly racist/sexist/homophobic 1-2 star reviews because of that, which tanked my rating.

I’ve also seen games like Demon Mark get beat to a pulp for having the MC’s brother be non-binary.

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